It’s fitting that Arkansas native Justin Moore hails from the “Natural State,” because what you see from Justin is what you get. At the moment—9 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in mid-July—it’s a 5-foot-7-inch, cowboy hat-sporting, boot-wearing, dip-spitting dude. No putting on airs. He’s as nonchalant as the suggestive title to his new album, Kinda Don’t Care, which drops today (Aug. 12).
It’s kinda hard to believe that Kinda Don’t Care is Justin’s fourth studio album. After moving to Nashville in 2002, Justin released his self-titled debut in 2009, following it up with 2011’s Outlaws Like Me and 2013’s Off the Beaten Path, both of which reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart.
Kinda Don’t Care is supposed to be the main topic of conversation during this early-morning sit-down—and he gets to it after a spell—but Justin’s Arkansas roots keep coming up, and those roots keep bringing a smile to his face. Interestingly enough, after his sophomore album in 2011, Justin packed up a U-Haul and moved his family—wife and two daughters at the time, he has a third daughter now—from Music City to Benton, Ark., which is about 20 miles north of his hometown of Poyen, Ark.
You can take the boy out of the Natural State, but you can’t take the Natural State out of the boy, so to speak.
“I grew up in central Arkansas in a town of about 300 people, and I was the one guy out of all my friends who wasn’t ready to get the hell out of Dodge,” says Justin. “I was the one who wanted to stay home because I loved it. I never wanted to move. It pained me to move. I’m close to my family, I’m an only child. I’m really close to my parents and grandparents, and I just enjoyed living there and had a sense of pride in being an Arkansan, but I knew that I had to be in Nashville in order to achieve my goals in this career, if I had any chance. I always found it to be a means to an end. I kept begging my wife to move back and move back and move back, and finally one day, after we had our [second] daughter, my wife walked in this big house we were living in in Franklin, [Tenn.], and she goes, ‘You ready to move home?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me? Absolutely.’ Two weeks later we were living in Arkansas.
“I have no issues with Nashville, it just ain’t home,” continues Justin. “I thought, ‘Man, I’d rather go eat dinner with my grandma on Sunday like I’ve always done my whole life. It’s been really, really good for us and me from a personal standpoint, and I believe, especially somebody whose art is their career, anytime you’re happy in your personal life it’s better for your art.”
Speaking of art, Justin’s latest expression of creative skills and imagination is Kinda Don’t Care, a 16-song offering that features a cadre of top songwriters, including Rhett Akins, Ross Copperman, Rodney Clawson, Jaren Johnston, Natalie Hemby and more, as well as the Billboard Top 10—and climbing—single, “You Look Like I Need a Drink.”
“We’ve been really lucky that every time we’ve put an album out we’ve had a really successful single to launch it with,” says Justin. “We took about six, eight months off from radio at the very end of the last album cycle, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I knew it was an important step in my career, but didn’t know what I wanted to do. Fortunately, I’m at a record label [Valory Music Co.] that allowed me some time to go figure that out and ‘You Look Like I Need a Drink’ was one of the first ones I found for the album. I’ve always been intrigued by titles that jump out off the page at me before I hear the song and this one did that to me. It was the complete antithesis of what I thought it was going to be when I heard it, right up my alley. We did some different things on this album, but we did some things like this song that are so me. Being off of radio for six, eight months with new music, we didn’t want to freak everybody out when we came back, so we came back with something that people would recognize as a song that I would do, so I’m fortunate that it’s doing well so far. It’d be nice if it’s our sixth number one, that’s the goal, man.”
If “You Look Like I Need a Drink” is the quintessential “Justin song” from Kinda Don’t Care, “Between You and Me” is one of the head-turners—a song that makes you take a double-listen to make sure you heard what you thought you heard. Yes, it’s still Justin, it’s just Justin 2016. And the album has a few more head-turners.
“‘Between You and Me’ is probably the most rocking thing we’ve done, and we’ve done some Southern rock type stuff in the past, but we’ve never done anything this rock-rock, so I’m excited for everybody to hear that,” says Justin. “There’s another song called ‘Spendin’ the Night’ that’s almost got a Santana kind of guitar thing going through it, to me. I’m stoked for people to hear it. When I heard it recorded and I heard my voice on it, I thought, ‘Yeah, it sounds like me. It just sounds like me in 2016.’ There’s one that may be my favorite song on the album called ‘Somebody Else Will,’ which has got a really big-time R&B, kind-of-bluesy vibe. That was one of the ones that I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know,’ but when we got in there and recorded it, I loved it and I love singing it.’”
With co-producers Scott Borchetta, Jeremy Stover and Julian Raymond, the 32-year-old was comfortable pushing the envelope production-wise on Kinda Don’t Care, but his distinctive Arkansas twang really ties the record together, and there are still plenty of archetypal songs like “Rebel Kids” and “Robbin’ Trains” that casual fans will gravitate toward.
“I really stretched my legs on this album and got outside my comfort zone in some spots,” says Justin. “I was concerned about that in the respect that I never want to contradict myself from what I’ve been as an artist or said as an artist. I have a really passionate core fan base that have provided me with so many opportunities within in this industry, and I don’t ever want them to be disappointed in anything. My producer pulled me aside when we were making the record and said, ‘Dude, you realize if you sing it, it sounds like you, and it sounds country. Chill out, and stop worrying about this.’ I thought, ‘You know what, he’s right. I need to not really care.’ If I have passion for this music and I love this music—which I do—it’s going to be infectious.”
Now that’s the Natural State of mind.
Kinda Don’t Care Track Listing and Songwriters
- “Robbin’ Trains” | Brett Beavers, Deric Ruttan, Josh Thompson
- “Put Me in a Box” | Erik Dylan, Randy Montana
- “Kinda Don’t Care” | Rhett Akins, Ross Copperman, Ben Hayslip
- “Hell on a Highway” | Blake Bollinger, Matt Rogers, Ben Stennis
- “Goodbye Back” | Justin Moore, Ross Copperman, Jeremy Stover
- “You Look Like I Need a Drink” | Rodney Clawson, Matt Dragstrem, Natalie Hemby
- “Somebody Else Will” | Kelly Archer, Adam Hambrick, Tebey Ottoh
- “Between You and Me” | Smith Ahnquist, Pavel Dovgaluk, CJ Solar
- “Got it Good” | Jaren Johnston, Neil Mason, Jeremy Stover
- “Rebel Kids” | Dan Isbell, Randy Montana
- “More Middle Fingers” featuring Brantley Gilbert | Casey Beathard, Monty Criswell, Shane Minor
- “Life in the Livin’” | Travis Dennis, Jared Mullins, Chris Stevens
- “Middle Class Money” | Rhett Akins, Marv Green, Ben Hayslip
- “Pick Up Lines” | Corey Crowder, Travis Denning, Jared Mullins
- “Spendin’ the Night” | Kelly Archer, Andrew DeRoberts, Adam Hambrick
- “When I Get Home” | Justin Moore, Dean Dillon, Jeremy Stover
Main image courtesy of Webster PR.
Cover art courtesy of Valory Music Co.